October 5, 2011

Synergizing Your Student Ministry

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It is time for student pastors to learn a new word in ministry: synergy. By definition, synergy is the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. In other words, together we can do more than we can do individually. This seems simple enough, but most student pastors have a difficult time applying this truth. Prior to my current position as a student pastor, I had the privilege of working with a para-church organization for three years. I traveled across America partnering with local churches in an effort to reach their communities for Christ. I will never forget having lunch with one particular student pastor on a Wednesday afternoon. After engaging in typical small talk, I asked, “So, have you invited the other youth groups in your area to our event tonight?” His answer surprised me.  He said, “No way! We are about reaching the lost, not stealing other churches’ members!” A guy beside him began to laugh because of my apparently ridiculous question.  My question was not regarding reaching the lost. Any growing student ministry should be a place of curiosity for the lost. My thoughts were concerning other ministries. What about the small churches that could not afford to have an outreach event? Those student pastors would have loved to take their kids to a free event like that! But they were never invited. Why? Because of the small vision he had for ministry. He did not understand the principle of Kingdom work being bigger than his ministry. Sadly, this is the case today with the majority of churches in America. I wish I could say this was the only conversation I have had like this, but I would be lying. Unfortunately, these conversations happen all too often.

I remember my first month in my current ministry. I was told that our church partnered with three other churches in our community for a youth rally held monthly. I thought this was the coolest thing ever! Soon after, I had lunch with one of the student pastors in the town and I shared my plans for an upcoming Disciple Now. We both had the same vision and decided it would be better if we combined our D-Now that year. We decided working together instead of competing against each other would be much more effective. The students absolutely loved it! To be honest, it was better than anything I could have pulled off alone. Students soon began acting differently at school. They started seeing themselves as one large student ministry rather than a few small ministries. Because of this, we decided to do more events together. This caught on with other youth ministries and before long, we were not only partnering with local churches, but with many churches around the county! We now host Saw You At The Pole rallies, Disciple Now’s, New Years’ Eve lock-ins, Student Leadership Conferences, and a 30-hour famine together every year. A few of us even send our students to the same summer camp. Between the youth rallies and the other events mentioned, we have seen our students grow in their understanding of the greater work of the Kingdom.

do more events together. This caught on with other youth ministries and before long, we were not only partnering with local churches, but with many churches around the county! We now host Saw You At The Pole rallies, Disciple Now’s, New Years’ Eve lock-ins, Student Leadership Conferences, and a 30-hour famine together every year. A few of us even send our students to the same summer camp. Between the youth rallies and the other events mentioned, we have seen our students grow in their understanding of the greater work of the Kingdom.

It is interesting now for me to visit the schools. Most of the students know me by name, not because I am the student pastor at their church, but because I have ministered to them in some way. Chris Nelson is another student pastor in our network. My students view him as one of their student pastors and his students view me in the same manner. We operate more like a large church with a student ministry staff rather than a small church with one worn-out student pastor. It is so rewarding to exercise synergy in ministry!

How can you begin to synergize your ministry? If you are not already, start eating lunch with other student pastors in your area. When we first started doing events together we were meeting every Tuesday for lunch and encouragement. We built relationships by going to each other’s homes, hanging out, and even playing Rock Band together! Our families spent time together. We prayed for each other when one of us was discouraged. We partnered in praying for each other’s ministry. Feelings of competitiveness are dashed when someone becomes dear to your heart. There have been times when one of us has learned about a new ministry resource. If kept a secret from the other ministries, this resource would make one individual student ministry shine high above the rest. But when you have synergy, that doesn’t matter. When we find new resources we think to ourselves, “Man, this could be a huge benefit to the other guys!” We share our hidden tricks with each other. Why? Because God’s kingdom is not about my church, it is about His church.

The body of Christ is bigger than the local church. It involves not just each individual church, but the regional church as well as the global body of believers. Ask yourself these questions. How can I compete with my brothers and sisters in Christ? How can I compete when there are so many lost people to reach? The answer is simple; you can’t. Once you look beyond your own ministry to see the Kingdom work God is doing, it is impossible to go back. I pray you will consider synergizing your ministry today

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